U.S. strike destroys bridge, restricts
Islamic State in Mosul: official
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[November 22, 2016]
By Saif Hameed and Stephanie Nebehay
BAGHDAD/GENEVA (Reuters) - U.S. forces
backing Iraqi troops retaking Mosul from Islamic State carried out an
air strike on a bridge spanning the Tigris river, restricting militant
movements between western and eastern parts of the city, a U.S. official
said on Tuesday.
U.S.-trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service forces are pushing deeper
into east of Mosul, the last major city under control of the Sunni
hard-line group in Iraq, while army and police units, Shi'ite militias
and Kurdish fighters surround it to the west, south and north.
Militants have steadily retreated from areas around Mosul into the city.
But the army's early advances have slowed as militants dig in, using the
more than 1 million civilians inside the city as a shield, moving
through tunnels, and hitting advancing troops with suicide bombers,
snipers and mortar fire.
Five bridges span the Tigris that runs through Mosul. They have all been
mined and boobytrapped by militants who took over the city two years ago
as they swept through northern Iraq and declared a caliphate in parts of
Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Despite planting mines on them, the militants have so far been able to
continue using bridges which have not yet been destroyed in air strikes.
Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the
U.S.-led coalition, on Tuesday said an air strike has taken out the
number four bridge, the southernmost, in the past 48 hours.
"This effort impedes Daesh's freedom of movement in Mosul, it inhibits
their ability to resupply or reinforce their fighters throughout the
city," he said using an Arabic acronym for the militant group.
Iraqi Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the military's joint
operations command, said he could not confirm the air strike. But he
said all the bridges across the river are mined by Islamic State.
A month ago, a U.S. air strike destroyed the No. 2 bridge in the center
of the city and two weeks later another strike took out the No. 5 bridge
to the north.
But the United Nations' International Organisation for Migration
expressed concern that the destruction of the bridges could obstruct the
evacuation of civilians.
"That is a concern of IOM because this is going to leave hundreds of
thousands without a quick way out of the combat," spokesman Joel Millman
told reporters in Geneva.
The battle for Mosul, launched five weeks ago, is turning into the
largest military campaign in more than a decade of conflict in Iraq
since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
[to top of second column]
Shi'ite fighters stand with their weapons on the top of a building
in Ali Rash, southeast of Mosul, Iraq November 21, 2016.
The Iraqi military estimates around 5,000 Islamic State fighters are
in Mosul. A 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi government forces,
Kurdish fighters and Shi'ite paramilitary units is surrounding the
Mosul's capture would be a major step towards dismantling the
caliphate, and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, believed
to have withdrawn to a remote area near the Syrian border, has told
his fighters to stay and fight to the end.
Counter terrorism units and an army armored division are the only
forces to have breached the city limits from the eastern side. Other
army and federal police units have yet to enter the northern and the
Iranian-backed militias have captured the Tal Afar air base, west of
Mosul, part of their campaign to choke off the route between the
Syrian and Iraqi parts of the caliphate Islamic State declared in
The number of people displaced because of the fighting in and around
Mosul has slightly decreased, an indication some began returning
their homes in places retaken by government forces, according the
"68,112 displaced is actually a downtick from couple of days ago,"
said Millman. It's "worth noting because it indicates that some
people are already starting to return to safe areas in the region."
The number of displaced was over 68,500 on Monday. The figure does
not include the thousands of people rounded up in villages around
Mosul and forced to accompany Islamic State fighters to cover their
retreat towards the city.
(Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Dominic Evans)
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